Name/TitleRendlesham: a royal landscape during the arrival of Christianity
About this objectRendlesham in Suffolk was a royal centre of the early East Anglian kingdom. From the late 6th until the early 8th centuries it was a residence for the East Anglian rulers and the administrative centre of an extensive region that included the major cemeteries at Snape and Sutton Hoo (see Death and Burials). Other places also served as periodic royal residences as the royal household travelled around the kingdom, but at present, Rendlesham appears to have been the largest and materially the wealthiest. During the 7th century a trading enclave was established at what is now Ipswich, which developed as a major commercial port and manufacturing centre as Rendlesham declined in importance in the 8th century.
In Historia Ecclesiastica, Bede [EXH14] records that the East Saxon king Swithelm “was baptized by Cedd in East Anglia, in the royal settlement called Rendlesham” and that King Aethelwold of East Anglia was his baptismal sponsor. Swithelm was baptised at some time between 655 and 663, and Cedd was Bishop of the East Saxons and founder of the monastery and church at Bradwell-on-Sea in Essex [EXH16]. Thus, although Swithelm’s baptism was hosted by a neighbouring ruler, it was performed by a Churchman from his own kingdom. The finds from Rendlesham, which include gold-and-garnet jewellery and fittings and large numbers of coins, support its identification as an important royal centre. The large site is still under investigation but, without Bede, there would be little evidence of conversion from the finds to date: the adjacent parish church is a medieval building, and only a handful of more than 1,000 metalwork finds of the period might be considered to bear Christian symbolism. As the burials at Sutton Hoo show, conversion was often a long and fitful process during which the old and new religions each had their ascendancies and when there was both conflict and assimilation, as seen in our Encounters story.
Date Made7th to 8th century
Subject and Association KeywordsArrivals
Credit LineSuffolk County Council
Object numberEXH17: Rendlesham